Wade Cox, bluegrass musician and friend to absolutely everyone in our business, passed away this past Saturday evening, April 23, near his home in Amherst, VA. He was 43 years of age.
I suspect we all have that one friend who seems to know everyone else we’ve ever met. You could be discussing something with a fellow parent at a Little League game, and his name would pop up from someone you’d never think he would know. That was Wade.
He was a staple at every festival or high-level jam session throughout southwestern Virginia, east Tennessee, or western North Carolina. Born Franklin Wade Cox, he played all the bluegrass instruments well, though with a special fondness for the mandolin, and knew nearly every song that had been recorded in the genre, or so it seemed.
According to friends, Wade was attending a Deer Creek Boys concert Saturday evening in Amherst, just steps from his home, and turned pale shortly before the show started. EMTs reported that he coded in the ambulance but they brought him back. He coded again as soon as they arrived at the hospital, and could not be resuscitated.
Over the past twenty years or so Cox performed both regularly and as a fill in with acts like The Country Gentlemen, James King, Bill Harrell, Tony and Heather Mabe, High Voltage, and Nothin’ Fancy.
Allen Mills, vocalist, bassist, and founder of Lost and Found, shared with us his profound respect and admiration for Wade, and a measure how how well he was loved by his friends in the music.
“I feel compelled to reach out to the many bluegrass industry people that Franklin Wade Cox, who passed away on Saturday, has touched with his humble approach and love of the music. The likes of Sammy Shelor, Larry Stephenson, Junior Sisk, Johnathan Dillon, Jesse Smathers, Alan Bibey and Gena Britt, and the younger musicians of southwest and central Virginia have paid tribute on Facebook. I have a yearning to share this young man’s impact to the artists he loved to support, both professionally and non professionally.”
David Carroll, banjo picker with The Railroaders, was a close personal friend of Wade’s, and remembers him as a warm, kind-hearted man.
“Wade was one of the most caring, kind, and genuine people on earth. And he was a bluegrass fanatic and encyclopedia. You could ask him about who played with who, or who recorded what. He knew who, what, when and everything in between. He ate, lived, and breathed bluegrass music. He was so kind and humble to everyone that met him. I mean extremely kind. He was an instant friend to anyone who met him.
He was so well-known and liked, people that had never met him thought they’d known him just from his Facebook posts. He posted everything from A to Z about bluegrass music – always eager to put the musicians first.
Wade had a love and passion for bluegrass music, but bluegrass musicians had a love and passion for Wade Cox as well. Wade hardly had any family. So he made the bluegrass community his family, and he loved us with every inch of his soul. Rest In Peace, Franklin Wade Cox. We love and miss you, brother.”
And that says it all. We should all be so lucky to be remembered like that.